Unpaid fuel bills ground Viva Macau

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am

A financial crisis has grounded budget airline Viva Macau and left hundreds of passengers stranded in airports and thousands of ticket holders fearing they will be unable to fly on their Easter holidays next weekend.

The Macau government said Viva Macau could not pay its fuel bills, including for two flights that flew from Macau to Tokyo and from Macau to Jakarta on Friday.

More than 300 passengers on the two flights were only able to depart with government help.

Other Viva Macau flights to Melbourne in Australia and Sapporo in Japan were cancelled yesterday.

The company, which started operations in 2006, could not be reached for comment, but despite all the unknowns apparently impinging on its continued viability, people were still able to buy tickets on its website last night.

The Macau government has said it will not interfere in the airline's commercial activities but has warned the company it is legally liable to offer services to buyers of its air tickets.

Thousands of people who have already bought Viva Macau air tickets are in the dark about their journeys, including 680 in Hong Kong who want to fly to Indonesia, Japan and Australia at Easter, according to the Tourism Industry Council.

'These people, booked through four travel agents, were supposed to take the airline's flights during Easter,' council executive director Joseph Tung Yiu-chung said.

'We are not sure if they can go as scheduled. We are still trying to learn more details.'

The Macau government, which bailed the airline out of another financial crisis earlier this year with an injection of nearly 200 million patacas, said yesterday it was disappointed with Viva Macau and regretted the suspension of flights.

'The Civil Aviation Authority was notified by the Macau International Airport that Viva Macau, which has failed to settle its fuel charges, has delayed and cancelled respectively its services to Jakarta and Tokyo, causing over 300 passengers to be stranded at the airport,' a government statement said.

It urged all passengers holding Viva Macau tickets to check the latest news before heading to the airport.

In April 2008, Oasis Airlines, a Hong Kong-based budget carrier, folded under the weight of about HK$1 billion worth of debt.